Wearable Computing | Confessions to Legal Infractions

Technology increases accountability for noncompliance with law.  It creates scads of records that can be used to enforce laws.

But such heightened accountability can shock people.

Our society floats in innumerable and confusing laws.  And we are not conditioned to being judged under these laws by way of all the records that now accumulate about us.

Scoble’s Excellent Glass Adventure

Consider a technology demonstration by tech pundit Robert Scoble.  Scoble is an early tester of Google Glass, a wearable computer.  He used Google Glass to video record a short automobile trip as he drove the roads of California.  

The video depicted what he, the driver, saw as he steered the vehicle.  He narrated as the video recorded events.

He compared the navigation available through Google Glass to the navigation available through a smartphone suction-cup-mounted on his windshield.  He explained that he preferred monitoring the phone for navigation because it displayed information at a location that is safer and easier for his eyesight.

Videotaped Confession

Then, while the video recorded, he confessed that he was breaking California traffic law!  He said that in California it is illegal to suction-cup anything (his smartphone) to his windshield.

He promptly posted the video on his Google Plus page for the world to view.

Of course Scoble probably does not think it is risky to admit in a public video that he is breaking a “trivial” law.  And this incident in itself may not be legally significant in Scoble’s life.

Publication of Evidentiary Minutia

But the incident points up a larger phenomenon in society.  More and more of the minutia of our lives is being recorded and published for reviewing by all, including the police, tax auditors, divorce lawyers and bill collectors.

As social media emerged a few years ago, some people naively used it to brag openly about crimes.  Early example:  A woman in New Zealand bragged on Facebook that she was collecting more welfare than she was entitled to.  The authorities saw her Facebook page and convicted her in 2009 of a crime.

Treasure Trove for Legal Adversaries

Technology like Google Glass is poised to increase the quantities of records about us by orders of magnitude.

The technology can deliver a treasure trove for legal adversaries.  Were a prosecutor wanting to prove that Scoble has a history of skirting traffic laws, this video would be discoverable by search engine.  Were a family lawyer seeking to prove that Scoble is a danger to his children, this video would be corroborating evidence that he prefers playing with his tech gadgets rather than complying with vehicle safety laws.

The big picture:  these recording technologies motivate us to be much more guarded in what we say, even when in the quiet of our own automobile.

Some would say technology imposes an unwelcome form of political correctness.

Like Being on the Witness Stand
On the Record


I posted a comment under Scoble’s video saying it is unwise ever to admit in a public recording that you are breaking a law.  In other words, when you are recording yourself with Glass, assume you are on the witness stand in a courtroom.

–Benjamin Wright